Macro and Telephoto Lenses for Smartphone Cameras

I recently lost the 20x clip-on macro I’ve had for I don’t remember how long. Been looking through this thread and there’s just so many options. I’ll probably go with the “buy the cheapest one” strategy and see if that’s good enough
I notice that a lot of these amazon pages are avoiding telling me what the magnification of their macro lenses are… and if I add “20x” to the search, I get only sets of like 6 or 7 lenses, which is far more than I need

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And then there’s the question of how accurate that is. The packaging in the image I posted above says 90x magnification, but I don’t think that’s accurate.

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Haha this might have been a helpful thread for me to find before I did all my own research a few months ago. I settled on this Mactrem kit for $30, which comes with 25x macro, 20x telephoto, wide angle, fisheye, and a flexible tripod mount. I mostly use the macro and I’ve found that sticking binoculars in front of my phone works better than the telephoto. (The telephoto also got some dirt in it and my cleaning attempts only made it worse.)

However, as others have said, the main issue was that you have to take the case off for most models I found. I bought this kit with the intent of cutting out the brass ring from the clip, cutting a larger hole in my case, and gluing the ring in. I didn’t even need glue because the ring was grooved and fit around my case.

It works amazing and I don’t have to worry about not having a case on when I’m in the field, which is pretty much the only time I’d want to use a lens anyway. The only issue is that the flash is partially obstructed when there’s a lens on. I suppose I also worry about losing my lenses and my macro even went through the wash once. Still works great.


Just to share my experience, some macro lenses may be problematic with the iPhone 11 Pro Max 3 camera system. The solution provided by the manufacturer did not work for me as I still got an all black image ~no~ matter how I positioned the lense.

This is my Amazon review for Xenvo Pro Lens Kit for iPhone, Samsung, Pixel, Macro and Wide Angle Lens with LED Light and Travel Case

First, this seems like a pretty decent macro lens compared to other (really cheap) ones I’ve tried. It is easy to attach to the phone with a sturdy clip and the quality of the accessory case and peripherals seems quite good. The deal breaker for me is that it does not work well with the 3-camera system on my iPhone. It often causes the camera display to switch black. I got a very intelligent and fast response when I wrote to the company about this issue, shown below:

“*The iPhone 11 Pro Max’s three-camera system consists of one ultra-wide camera (0.5x), one wide-angle camera (1x), and one telephoto camera (2x). When the phone is at 1x, it uses the wide-angle camera. But, when you zoom in somewhere past 2x, or when you switch the camera app to ‘portrait mode’, the phone will automatically switch to the telephoto camera.

When the Xenvo lens is centered over the phone’s wide-angle camera, the lens clip is blocking the telephoto camera. Because of this, when the phone switches which camera it is ‘looking’ through, its view is blocked. So, when you zoom in past 2x, the phone switches cameras and you end up seeing the back of the lens clip, a black screen.

As long as the Xenvo lens is centered over the wide-angle camera, which is the one closest to the corner of the phone, and the camera app is kept at 1x zoom, the screen should not go black.

One other factor affecting which camera the phone selects is the lighting conditions in your picture. The iPhone 11 Pro Max’s wide-angle camera is capable of gathering more light than its telephoto camera. So, when there is less light, the phone may not switch to the telephoto at 2x and will instead keep using the wide-angle camera with digital zoom up until the phone determines that the image quality degradation caused by the digital zoom would exceed that caused by the inferior light-gathering capability of the telephoto camera.

There are some third-party camera apps you can download from the app store which allow you to manually select which of the iPhone’s cameras is being used. You can then digitally zoom without fear of the camera switching when you don’t want it to. These apps will also give you greater control of other parameters in your photography, and you may want to investigate them to see if any of them would be the right choice for you and your photography.*”

Sample pics:


For me, I´ve tried the super cheap clip on ones but found them so clumsy and just too easy to lose. Not really into the clip system as a whole. Ordered an Olloclip which is more like the Ztylus I think insofar as its flush to the body. Maybe that´ll suit me more.

In the mean time, really enjoying just using a 10x loupe with iPhone 6 at the moment. Incredible the detail you can get just with this even, especially given the pricepoint :

Hoping to explore laser pointer hacks too, for another ultra low cost option.

Have also tried using Vellemans phone microscope… The great thing on this one is that the microscope head detaches.

The add-on to attach to a phone is really tough to keep in place though. But still, managed to capture some mm long collembola… and doing that live, on a beach with a phone, is pretty damn exciting, regardless.


In the picture below, you can see what a well-designed macro lens attachment can do. The right side photo is not in focus because the camera focusing range is insufficient. The left photo was taken with a macro lens attachment.

John and Oleg

Macro image


So for everyone wondering what to do with that wide-angle/fisheye lens in the set, try using it over top of your laptop camera for webinars. They work really well for allowing multiple people to get in frame (great if you’re trying to have virtual cocktails with another couple, for instance).


Welcome to the Forum. That diagram is interesting. Is that set-up designed for a camera phone or for a regular camera? Or, am I asking the wrong question :crazy_face:

I think it’s just a generic for any situation, showing how it “shortens” the focal length. for a start, even regular cameras have many more lenses involved inside them, and phone camera lenses themselves are quite complex multi-lens setups.

One issue I will point out is that because the lenses aren’t “paired” well, a diopter situation will often introduce distortion around the periphery of the photo… which I personally don’t mind because I try and get the subject into the centre third area of the photo so that it’s not affected by that distortion, and that allows “just enough” context around the subject to know what is going on… (eg in a petri dish on my desk, on a leaf, floating on water, etc.)


It seems that most clip on macro lenses only work for smartphones with single lenses. My phone (a galaxy a13 5g) has four. Any ideas for a cheap clip on lens that could work for this model?



The macro lens only will work with the main lens of the phone, but it doesn’t matter how many other lenses the phone has. I’d say pretty much any clip-on lens will work (unless it says something like “iphone only”) and will have good results.

(I have one now where the lens can be screwed into a case that was specific to my phone model - and it makes it a bit faster to attach and un-attach the lens since it’s always aligned, but the quality is actually slightly worse than both of the $5 clip-ons I had before.)

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Yeah, you have to find the correct lens. One issue, though, is that even if you find the correct lens, sometimes the clip-on lens goes partly over the other lenses, which can confuse the camera and make it switch to the wrong lens.


This also reminds me, when I got my first clip-on lens and tried it everything was just blurry and after 5 minutes I was ready to send it back thinking it’s broken until my wife tried and she got a perfectly sharp picture on first try and I realized two things:

  1. I had to be unexpectedly close to the subject, almost touching it.
  2. It had a very narrow focus range, when something is in focus the things just 1mm behind or in front are blurry.

Yes, I had this same issue. which it why I had been trying to cold-stun my subjects, as they tend to dislike that. :grin:

I think I dampened the end of the cotton swab when took this observation:

I’m looking to get clip-on lenses to use with a cell phone camera – both magnifier and telscope. The phone is a Samsung Galaxy A21s, I think, though I’m pretty sure most clip-ons are likely to fit most phone models anyway.

Not looking to go too expensive, but just want a solid step up from simply relying on a cell phone camera with digital zoom and autofocus. As for budget, based on the prices I’m seeing on Amazon (which is probably where I’ll order them from, despite my misgivings about the company), I’m thinking of a total price of about $25 to $30 USD, but this is pretty flexible. (And if you know of a better store, please do tell.)

What are some products y’all have tried and what do you think of them?

Do y’all have any tips on what to look for or what to avoid when shopping for these things?

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I’ve seen a lot of people using the Xenvo brand sold on Amazon. Everyone I’ve talked to has reported good results with it. Be aware that using a thick phone case may affect how well it works. Also should be aware that you usually need to have your phone very close to the subject to focus on tiny things.

(moved the above two posts to this existing thread)

For macro, I think most lenses, even the cheaper ones, will provide decent optical quality.

But what does matter is how it physically attaches to the phone and what configuration provides the best compatibility and ease of use for your particular phone/case combination. So there isn’t necessarily going to be a one-size-fits-all answer to this.

I’ve had trouble with some clips because my case is too thick, or because the clip puts pressure on the top of the screen where some of the camera menu settings are located and thus inadvertently turns on the flash or the self-timer function or whatever. If you have a phone with multiple lenses (I don’t), this also may need to be taken into account so that the clip or edge of the lens doesn’t block the sensor or other lenses.

There are also lenses that attach using some other method – for example, they screw into to a special case or can be used with a phone rig. These in turn have their own requirements which may or may not work for you (i.e., not being able to use your regular case). The macro lenses I use attach using silicone rather than having a clip, which I’ve been quite happy with, though they are somewhat easy to lose as a result.

Telephoto: unlike with macro lenses, here cheap price seems to directly correlate with poor quality.

The inexpensive options sold explicitly for cell phones (10x tele or similar) provide only modest image quality and are difficult to use. Clip-on models have all the potential disadvantages outlined above, and I’ve found it quite fiddly to get the lens correctly centered over the phone camera (by which time the bird I want to photograph has often flown away).

If you already own a decent pair of binoculars or a spotting scope, I suspect a better option would be to purchase a digiscoping adapter or phone holder meant for this purpose.